Changing the mindset

Changing the mindset

MASERU – SHE is only in her mid-teens and serving a three-year sentence at the Juvenile Training Centre (JTC) in Maseru.
Avoiding eye-contact with the audience of diplomats, ministers and a horde of journalists, the young girl refrains from saying why she is an inmate at the JTC.
She tells them her name and says she is from Mafeteng district but thepost will call her Letsibana to protect her identity because she is a minor.
Clad in a red and white jersey and green skirt, the Lesotho Correctional Service (LCS)’s female inmates’ uniform, Letsibana is standing in front of the crowd at the JTC Hall to speak on behalf of fellow inmates.

She is part of a group of young offenders at the centre who have just completed what is called ‘Mindset Education, a self-development programme from the International Youth Fellowship (IYF), an ecumenical group.

During the two-week course the inmates were taught self-control and thinking positively.
The motive is to help the young offenders to change their attitudes and be better citizens that contribute positively to society. Along the way they also learn to play piano and violin, instruments long touted as crucial in teaching children to be disciplined and committed.
“I never thought that I would receive mindset education ever in my life. After those lessons I feel that I am a changed person,” Letsibana says as she thanks Commissioner Thabang Mothepu for allowing them to take the IYF lectures.

Letsibana says the IYF course taught them to respect authority and the law.
And in a candid admission Letsibana says this refusal to live by the basic rules is what has brought most of them to the centre.
She says after the lessons she realised that the problem was not with her parents but her attitude.
“This is why we ended up here at the centre,” she says.

“After serving our sentences, we will be better citizens of this country.”
“We will not be repulsive anymore.”
JTC commander, Senior Superintendent Mokhethi Raphuthing, says they are grateful to the IYF for helping the centre rehabilitate the young offenders.
Raphuthing says they hope the inmates will be changed people when they return to their communities.
“One of the purposes of this centre is to correct the behaviour of breaking law,” he says.

Raphuthing says rehabilitation is designed to give the young offenders a chance to change their lives before they slide into hard core crimes. The idea, he says, is to show the young offenders that they are capable of living on the straight and narrow and pursue their dreams.
The ultimate goal is to mold future leaders, Raphuthing says.

Young offenders who complete their sentences at the JTC will not have criminal records, meaning they have a fair shot at opportunities in life like their peers who were not convicted.
A criminal record in adulthood can block employment prospects.
The LCS commissioner Thabang Mothepu says the training was a success.

Mothepu says for most of the people it takes a year to learn how to play violin or piano but the inmates have mastered the basics in just two weeks.
IYF Director Jonah Hong says the dream of every volunteer is to make a change in someone’s life.
“That is where the happiness of most volunteers comes from,” he says.

Hong says most volunteers come from developed countries where “many people struggle to find happiness”.
The Minister of Justice Mokhele Moletsane says he was grateful that even the international partners and the private sector are keen to help to meet the mandate of the LCS.
“I hope the education will change your lives forever,” he says.

The IYF donated Mindset Education to the centre.
The International Youth Fellowship (IYF) is a Christian-based global youth organization established in 1995 and is active in almost 80 countries. It relies heavily on young volunteers.

‘Makhotso Rakotsoane

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